Absalom’s Death (18:1–18)
16–18 The Israelites who had fought with Absalom fled to their homes (verse 17). Joab’s men dumped Absalom’s body into a pit and piled rocks on top of it. Thus it could be said that they erected a “monument” over Absalom’s dead body-quite different from the monument the proud Absalom had erected for himself60 (verse 18).
David Mourns (18:19–33)
19–23 Zadok’s son Ahimaaz wanted the privilege of telling David the good news that Absalom’s forces had been defeated. But Joab knew that David would only be interested in the fate of his son Absalom. In fact, David would have preferred to die himself rather than have anything happen to his son (see verse 33). Therefore, Joab tried to dissuade Ahimaaz from bearing the message that day; not only would he get no reward for his message, but he might even get punished for it (verse 22).
Joab had chosen a Cushite, a non-Israelite, to carry the news to David. But when Ahimaaz persisted, Joab let him go to David also. So the two messengers went running off to Mahanaim, with Ahimaaz soon getting out in front.
24–27 David, meanwhile, was waiting for news at the city gate. When the watchman spotted Ahimaaz coming, David assumed his news must be good. He was sure Joab wouldn’t have sent someone like Ahimaaz if the news was bad.
28–33 Ahimaaz told David that the Lord had delivered up his enemies. It is the Lord who “delivers”; victory and defeat are in His hands. But when David asked about his son Absalom, Ahimaaz did not give a direct answer.
Just then the Cushite arrived, and David again asked about his son. The Cushite gave a diplomatic answer, trying as best he could to soften the bad news (verse 32). But David clearly understood the message: his son Absalom was dead. David was overcome with grief. He would have given up his throne—his very life—to save his son. The terrible words of the prophet Nathan had once again come true (2 Samuel 12:10; 13:28–29).